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Friday, February 21, 2014

Comic Cuts - 21 February 2014

Another week of trying to get my act together and post material to Kindle. I feel I'm actually making some progress now that I've put together a page for these features. I've also posted a couple of additional features since last week, namely I Kill 'em Inch by Inch: The Ben Sarto Story, which originally appeared back in 1994 in the second issue of Paperback, Pulp and Comics magazine, and Some Rats Have Two Legs: The "Griff" Story, from the debut issue of Crime Time in 1995.

These two overlap slightly as they both concern bylines used by Morwell Street-publisher Modern Fiction in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Between them, they graced the covers of about 150 novels, two of which I've adapted to create the covers above.

I also – finally! – posted what some might call the long-awaited, or at the very least the long-time-coming, The Lady Holds a Gun! The Story of Dail Ambler. This one runs to 7,000 words and also attempts to cover her film career what detail I've been able to discover because as well as writing as Danny Spade, Ace Capelli, Johnny Grecco and others, she was also the screenwriter behind the cult classic Beat Girl (aka Wild for Kicks) starring the Gillian Hills as a teenager trying to rebel against her father, who has just married a much younger French woman. Adam Faith, in his first screen role, was the big draw and some of the Ambler-penned dialogue between the beatniks is a scream: "Great, dad, great—straight from the fridge!"

Dail was also heavily involved in a court case brought by Liberace against the Daily Mirror in 1959, wrote a TV show for Eric Sykes and even penned an unpublished Sexton Blake novel. Her career intersects with so many of my interests (gangster paperbacks, exploitation movies, Sexton Blake, comedy, etc.) that she seems to have been lurking in the background wherever my researches take me. This isn't the definitive biography of this fascinating woman – I haven't, for instance, been able to confirm why, whilst still in her twenties, she was declared bankrupt, although you'll find some speculation about that in the article.

Beat Girl - Main Theme

At the moment I have one more article finished and ready to post and one that I'm working on. Hopefully I'll have them posted promptly and I'll set up links at the Bear Alley Books Kindle page.

I'm also working on another article that I've been thinking about for some time about a publisher who set up a business a century ago having already had a wild career as a politician in Australia. I thought about writing this guy up about ten years ago and again a couple of years back when I thought I had a venue for the resulting article. However, the magazine folded and I never got around to writing the article. Now that I can publish it myself, I'm tempted to finally put some time into it, although quite when I'm not sure.

Next week I've got to get back into writing the Countdown/TV Action index. Only three weeks late!

Some random scans... and in a blatant attempt to give some of the above a little push, here are some Ben Sarto books from across the ages. Miss Otis Comes To Piccadilly is a later printing, probably from 1949 although that's just an educated guess. Miss Otis Goes Up claims "five million sale" but that's definitely a fib. More like half-a-million, which was still a very respectable figure – around 50,000 per book. Pleasure Girl dates from 1957, making it one of the last Sarto novels. This is one of the better Ray Theobald covers. And, finally, Dames For Hire, from Beacon, whom Sarto briefly had an exclusive deal in 1949-51.

We have an update to one of Jeremy Briggs' L. Ashwell Wood articles – adding a couple of pics and making a minor correction – for tomorrow and an Andrea Camilleri / Inspector Montalbano cover gallery is already lined up for Sunday.


David said...

Hi Steve

One thing you didn't mention about Beat Girl is that it featured John Barry's first film soundtrack.
Anyone who's interested can spend £4.99 on a download of the soundtrack LP by going to

I bought it,and thoroughly enjoy it

Steve said...

Hi David,

I have it and I agree: there are some utterly hilarious vocal tracks from Adam Faith (including "Made You") and Shirley Anne Field ("It's Legal"), but the music from John Barry is classic jazz/rock, especially the Main Theme. It's available on YouTube but I should have linked to it in the main text. I'll just go and fix that now...